Zechariah 8:13 “As you have been an object of cursing among the nations, O Judah and Israel, so will I save you, and you will be a blessing. Do not be afraid, but let your hands be strong.”
We don’t usually think in terms of ethnic labels being curses, but we do it all the time. Opposition to that sort of thing has produced “political correctness,” which goes so far in the other direction as to make sane, logical discourse practically impossible at times. Having gone to seminary in Texas I am very aware of “Aggie jokes,” which put students and graduates of Texas A&M University in the category of jokes. (It was interesting to notice that many alumni delighted in the jokes, but those who were most upset by them were the ones to whom the jokes would seem most to apply!) What God is saying to His people here is, “You aren’t going to be the butt of jokes any more, but rather of envy and admiration, because of how I am going to bless you.” Actually, looking at the nation of Israel today we can see the fulfillment of this promise. Those who are against Israel are that way out of jealousy and hatred, and not for any logical motive. It is not perfect, certainly, but it has one of the highest levels of technological innovation in the world, as well as of education, art, and a number of other markers. It has literally made the desert bloom, to the point of being an agricultural exporter, when a hundred years ago that would have seemed an absurdity. The same thing may be said of genuine Christians. In many areas of the world today they are actively persecuted, but again the biggest motive is envy at the blessings of God that come by faith. The irony there is that those who are doing the persecuting could have those same blessings themselves, if they would only let go of the lies that have bound them and accept the free gift of God. Something the New Testament Church had to struggle with was that the Gospel made the blessings and promises of God available to all who would repent and believe, with no regard to ethnicity. Quite a few Jewish believers choked on that, but God made it abundantly clear. In those days, “Christian” was very much an epithet, a curse, but God fulfilled the promise in this verse. So today, if people speak poorly of us because of our faith, we need to remember that God has chosen us to be a blessing and a channel of His salvation.
I don’t know that I have ever felt persecuted for being a Christian, but I have certainly felt stung by the usage of “foreigner” here in Japan, and also by being called such things as “Jack the Jap” in the US. I too need to find my identity in Christ and recognize that I am created and chosen to be a blessing. I need to remember my brothers and sisters in faith around the world who face active persecution right now, praying for them not simply to be protected but to rise up as God’s people indeed, silencing the lies against them by the truth and power of God, as channels of salvation even to those who now persecute them.
Father, I do pray for those who face active persecution. May they be filled with Your Spirit to the point that they overflow with peace and love, and even joy, regardless of their circumstances. May they have the rock-solid assurance that their current “light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” (2 Corinthians 4:17) May they rejoice in who they are in Christ, and so destroy the lies and strongholds of the enemy, in themselves and in those around them, for Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!